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UofSC holds food drive to address community needs ahead of the holidays

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 9:05 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - To mark Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, the University of South Carolina community is coming together to support those in need.

UofSC’s Leadership and Service Center hosted the inaugural Great Food Race on Monday, a university-wide food drive with all donations going toward the student-run Gamecock Pantry.

Emilie Brady, Gamecock Pantry’s Executive Director, said the drive drew well over 1500 food donations donated today. For context, a typical food drive for the pantry would bring in around 200 donations.

“I think it’s awesome to see our work kind of actualized in an event like this,” Brady said.

Jabari Bodrick, Associate Director in UofSC’s Leadership and Service Center, said the event was two years in the making. The pandemic delayed plans for it to be held last year.

“Some of our colleagues over in the School of Journalism used to have an event where they dressed up in costumes and did some great things for the community,” he said. “And so we decided to make it larger and make it a campus-wide event. And so they took the lead on it, and that was two years ago.”

Twelve campus organizations took part in Monday’s food drive.

Brady says she wants to help ensure the entire Gamecock family has the food they need for the holidays.

“We have had around 5000 food items taken out of the pantry this year so the Great Food Race is a great way for us to kind of replenish our inventory and gear up for the holiday season because we see a lot of donations taken out around now too,” she said.

Brady, a UofSC senior, said this work is “fulfilling” because Columbia has given her so much, and she wants to give back.

“I talked to students and campus organizations all year long about this so to see them come together and realize that food insecurity on this campus is a problem is endearing,” she said. “And I love to see the campus come together for the people that need it most,”

Gamecock Pantry staff say visits to the pantry have risen in recent months. Clients served jumped from 440 last fall to nearly 1000 last spring, and there have been almost 1200 visits to the pantry so far this semester.

“The donations go as quickly as they come, and so we’re always trying to get as many as possible,” Bodrick said.

The pantry is accessible for free to anyone with a valid CarolinaCard. This includes students, faculty and staff.

The increase in student hunger is not unique to Columbia. A 2020 study from Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice found that 34 percent of college students across the nation had experienced food insecurity in the last 30 days.

Bodrick said though UofSC does not have a large percentage of students experiencing food insecurity, one is too many.

“I mean the university is pouring resources into helping address this and we’re very appreciative of that,” he said.

Monday’s is part of efforts by the university to observe Hunger and Homelessness awareness week. Erinn Rowe, CEO of Harvest Hope will be speaking here on campus Tuesday about food insecurity in the Midlands and nationwide. Harvest Hope is the state’s largest food bank.

RELATED STORY | Harvest Hope Food Bank experiencing supply chain issues ahead of busy holiday season

Additionally, Gamecock Pantry will be tabling on Greene Street throughout the week and collecting donations. On Thursday, a food insecurity training will be held to educate students about the work the pantry does on a daily basis and what it means for the Columbia community.

If you’d like to donate, Gamecock Pantry volunteers encourage you to visit their website. You can drop items off at the pantry, or donate remotely via their Amazon wish list. Items of need right now include canned meat, canned fruit and cereal.

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